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Latkes - Sweet and Savory Variations

There is nothing new under the sun, at least when it comes to latkes.  Just a quick look online will yield so many variations on this theme that your head will spin faster than a driedel.  I certainly don’t claim that my latke variations will take you to places (or heights) unknown.  But they are delicious, easy, and freeze well – so if you aren’t morally or nutritionally opposed to fried food, keep reading.

Hanukkah or Chanukah latkes

Hanukkah is minor, but fun holiday in the Jewish calendar.  It celebrates the victory of the Jews, led by the Maccabee family, over the Syrians about 150 years before the birth of Jesus.  Chanukah has turned into a gift and food fest – at least in the U.S. - as it stands near (although not always close) to Christmas when the Jewish/lunar calendar is superimposed on the Western secular/solar calendar.  As for the true meaning of the holiday, I leave that to others.  This post is all about the food, with a minor detour for a short spelling lesson. 

Because the holiday name is Hebrew, there are many transliterations that work in English.  Besides Hanukkah and Chanukah, it is also spelled Hanukah, and Chanuka.  In fact, some crazy folks have tracked the use of 16 different spellings in 2012 and 20 in 2011, for example.  I spelled it Chanukah last year, so I’ve decided to switch to Hanukkah just for variety. 

Traditionally, Hanukkah foods are cooked in oil to celebrate a miracle that is said to have occurred after the Jews rededicated the Temple, which had been desecrated during the fighting.  The small amount of oil in the lamp of the Temple’s ceremonial menorah (candelabra) was only sufficient for one day, but miraculously lasted for 8 days.  

In my family, the traditional celebratory fried food is latkes or fried potato pancakes.  My tried-and-true recipe is simple.  In my Hanukkah post last year, I went through that recipe step-by-step.  This year, as part of a Hanukkah blog party sponsored by Leah of Cook Kosher and Miriam of Overtime Cook, I'm doing sweet and savory latke variations.  The party includes cookbook giveaways too!  So after my recipes, check out the giveaway details and links to other party participants' Hanukkah-themed treats. 

“Basic” Potato Latkes 

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ small onion (less than ¼cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste (I use Kosher salt)
  • 2 tablespoons of flour or matzo meal (I used matzo meal for these variations)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups Yukon gold or small red potatoes, measured after grating 
  • Canola oil (about ½ cup) – for frying

My 3 variations: 

  • Sweet and white potato with parsnips
  • Zucchini and potato with dill, and 
  • Potato with shallots and apple (yes, I really did put apples inside my latkes) 

Except where specifically noted below, I followed the same preparation steps for the variations as I did for the original recipe.  Here are the ingredients and notes for each variation:

Sweet Potato, White Potato and Parsnip Latkes

ingredients for sweet potato, white potato and parsnip latkes for Hanukkah
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ small onion (less than ¼ cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons matzo meal
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup of grated Yukon gold or red skinned white potatoes
  • 1 cup of grated sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup of grated parsnips
grating potatoes and parsnips for potato pancakes

The parsnips should be rinsed and pressed out, along with the sweet and red bliss potatoes.  

Zucchini and Potato Latkes with Dill

ingredients for zucchini and potato latkes with dill for Hanukkah
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ small onion (less than ¼ cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ cups of grated zucchini
  • 1½ cups of grated Yukon gold or red skinned white potatoes 

The dill goes in with the egg, onion, matzo meal mixture.  The grated zucchini, which should be rinsed and pressed out with the potatoes, is quite moist, so I doubled the matzo meal (or flour); the result is a latke that is moister and less crunchy.

Potato Latkes with Shallots and Apple

ingredients for potato pancakes or latkes with shallots and apples
  • ½ cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup of Granny Smith apple (approximately 1 medium apple), sliced into thin slices and then into thirds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (oops. forgot the pepper in the picture)
  • 2 tablespoons matzo meal
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups of grated Yukon gold or red skinned white potatoes
cooking shallots and apples for latkes

Cook the shallots (milder botanical cousins of onions) in the butter on a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallots turn transparent.  Then add the apple pieces, raise the heat to medium, and continue cooking for approximately 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until they soften.  Add the mixture to the egg, onion, and matzo meal mixture.

Each of the variations hits a different flavor and texture “note.”  My taste-tester-in-chief liked them all.  His personal favorite among them was the zucchini and potato with dill, which is a lighter than the others.

potato pancake or latke with zucchini and dill

I couldn’t pick a favorite – it’s kind of like asking me which child I like prefer.  So instead of choosing, I’ll celebrate Hannukah with all of them, and the traditional all-potato latkes too.

a plate of latkes or potato pancakes for Chanukah

Happy Hanukkah!

The giveaway cookbooks are:

  • 2 copies of Susie Fishbein's new Kosher By Design Cooking Coach (sponsored by Artscroll)
  • 2 copies of Leah Schapira's  Fresh and Easy Kosher Cooking (sponsored by Artscroll) 
  • 2 copies of Esther Deutch's CHIC Made Simple (sponsored by the author)

How to enter: Leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite idea for a latke variation.  It doesn’t have to be one you’ve tried – just let your imagination run wild.

The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM on Sunday, December 16th. Limit one entry per person per blog participating in the Hannukah blog party, so visit the other blogs for extra chances to win! Prizes can only be shipped within the US. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address in order to qualify.

Hanukkah Blog Party Recipe Links


Donuts and Desserts: 

Appetizers, Soups, Sauces, Drinks and other Hanukkah Food

Hanukkah Blog Party logo 2.jpg
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